A Plant Aquarium Update

So, you read yesterday’s post about the aquarium melt-down…this post is about the plant aquarium, a five gallon aquaponics tank—with no live plants…

This tank (known as the plant tank, even without plants in it/on it) was stressed out, holding twelve+ fish, for a few days. I wasn’t entirely sure how long that many fish would need to live there…and the meltdown of the other aquarium actually happened at a point where I had already been thinking about what could live in that environment…with that many fish in there though, I wanted to have extra filtration and cleaning added as quickly as possible, without having to buy a new filter or whatever—because the top of the tank is styrofoam with holes cut into it where we put the mesh baskets through to the water. There is a space (now) cut off at one side in the back to accommodate the heater and the airline tubing. Until this weekend, there was no heater in the tank…because…well, no one had gotten around to cutting a space out for the heater…and the water temps weren’t that chilly that I thought the fish would be affected. But, since this was the week to upgrade all the aquariums here, and talk about bringing the tall tank back upstairs as well – it’s just talk…I have no intention of doing that for a long time…although the talk originally started because my youngest expressed a deep love and admiration of angel fish…right now, that whole process to bring the tank up, clean it, set it up—just the idea of it is too exhausting for me right now…so maybe in a few months…so, the spacer got cut out and the heater installed…and although the water is a might bit warmer than it was, the fish don’t seem much changed…we’ll see how it goes once winter hits though…

So, my original intention, even before we had to plop all our mollies and their sidekicks into the smaller plant tank, was to find a peace lily. To be honest, I’ve actually been looking for a peace lily for nearly two months. Maybe three at this point. Wherever I go, not what I am looking for…even when I switched and decided to try to find a diffenbachia…no diffenbachia…of course—it’s what I was looking for, in several different stores, in several different locations…well, this past weekend when we all went out to run errands, I actually found some peace lilies…about two feet + tall peace lilies—the HUGE peace lilies—the really expensive ones…and what I have been after were smaller ones…that would not look or be out-of-place on top of a five gallon aquarium.

This past weekend, when we went out, there was only one houseplant in the store we went to. The poor thing was outside in the ‘garden center’, dying with all the other sun-burnt plants. She was stuck out in the midst of yard plants and garden plants. She was in a six-inch pot, so root bound that the roots were curling out the bottom, the sides and over the top. She was bone-dry…when I got her home and rinsed off the soil, there wasn’t much soil to speak of. She was straggly. She was massively sun-burnt. I picked her up, looked at her, and walked away, searching for any other sort of house plant. Finding only tall tropical plants that were completely inadequate for my needs, I started to head back into the building…but as I walked past her again, I heard her plea to come with me…so I had to pause. I picked her up. I saw that she had a lot of life left within her…so…she ended up coming home with me. Not a peace lily by any means, but a pothos.

I was far too tired to do anything once we got home, other than take my meds and curl up in my chair to wait for the pain meds and sinus meds to kick in and rest rest rest. I did get a plastic bowl, drop the plant as she was into the bowl and fill it up completely with water. She sat in that water overnight, and through most of the next day…until I had the energy to work with her.

The plant tank has eleven holes cut into the top for the mesh baskets. You may recall we were trying to grow catnip from seed her in growth wool over the recycling glass stone we have. Yeah. Not enough light—which I why I went for a low light loving plant. We had many of the seeds sprout, but they never got much past the sprouted out of the seed stage…

I took the pothos outside and I dumped out the water. I gently worked her out of her pot and she did come out pretty quickly. I rinsed all the dirt and soil and particles away. It didn’t take long; she really was nearly all root. I kept rinsing her, even after all the visbile dirt had come away. I refilled that plastic bowl again and plopped her in there. Then we went back inside…and I had to take a break. The heat wasn’t all that bad that day…and there was a light breeze, but still…I am not well, just getting on the mend now…and I needed to rest.

Once I felt up to it, I took her to the sink and started to pull her apart. She came apart into smaller rootings, as I call them, very quickly. I filled ten pots with the pothos…I have to leave that other hole empty so I can feed the fish. I took one single rooted stem, dropped in the growth wool, topped it off with the recycled glass stones – and plopped them into the tank.

The plantings have been in the tank for a day or two now—and they are happy.

Now, this plant has a lot more than ten rootings. She probably has closer to thirty or forty little rootings in total…whatever was leftover after I finished filling the plant tank baskets went into a half-gallon mason jar full of water (with some added kelp fertilizer) and even those pieces look so much happier than when I brought her home.

We have an older pothos. It’s belonged to my partner for years. It was a gift from a friend. I have been eyeballing that plant since I had to repot our beloved diffenbachia – and she ended up in a jar full of water and is now growing quite happily, lots of roots, growing new leaves as we speak…I am thinking that perhaps giving her the water-bath like these new pothos may be a good thing to bring her back around. She tends to fade, come back, fade, come back—although she gets very little light. She’s been happier lately since I moved her to a shelf on the wall where she gets better light—I may just need to think about a new pot and fresh soil for her…I’m still debating…I am in no rush to start a new project as yet.

These guys on our tank top will eventually start to vine out…and that is not really a bad thing…but by the time they get long and leggy, I hope to have found some peace lilies to replace them so that the pothos can all be potted in soil and allowed to grow and live happily. But for now, they are helping the fish keep the tank cleaner and the fish are helping them recover from their sun-burnt desert-like experience before we brought them home.

An Aquarium Melt-Down

So, fish update…I was so sick that for a week, I barely did anything. Remembering to feed my cats – not that hard because they are loud and ye-owly and bite-y if not fed…remembering to feed the fish…too much effort…and as sick as I was, I figured that someone else would feed the fish, since my oldest asked me a couple days if she should feed the fish. In my not well state of mind, it should have hit me that if she didn’t ask, they didn’t get fed. The rule is—I feed things—lest everything get overfed. Well, when too sick to feed myself, it didn’t strike me as a long shot for someone else to think…hey, gotta feed the fish.

Now, there are also a lot of extenuating circumstances with the big tank. One is – the brown slime algae we have been fighting for years—interesting fact—no other tank has this slime. Even though to start both other tanks, I took water from the big tank and dumped it into the smaller tanks. Two is – a teen-ager’s stuff that piles up in front of the tank—since there is a table there—the stuff piles up and piles up…so the ten gallon/betta tank and the big tank (betta tank is set under the big tank) do not get cleaned out as much as they should…although I do top off evaporated water regularly, when not ill. Three is – back to the teen-ager, who is in charge of doing dishes and emptying out the kitchen sink—and to say that it is a rare instance when there is nothing at all in the sink is an understatement of monumental proportions. When sick, I am not fighting to get my sink cleaned because it takes far too much energy that I do not have…

The day I went to the doctor last week, we came home, and that night I walked past my fish tank and I always look in. The water didn’t look that bad—I knew it needed a cleaning, and it needed more water, but it wasn’t as bad as it has been in the past, at least not visibly. I saw my queen botia, bloated and white, floating, dead, at the top of the water. I instantly knew that something very bad was going on. I got the net pulled her, and another dead fish, a molly, as well as some bits of another/other fish. Now, there were only a few days where I did not feed the fish—technically the tank should not have gone all lord of the flies that fast, not the way I feed these fish. Death by overfeeding is more of an issue than death by starvation…but again, I don’t really think not being fed twice a day for three or four days should not have caused this issue…not to this extreme.

So…I was so sick, all I did that night was remove the dead fish that I found. That is all I could manage. The next day, over twelve hours, my four-year-old and I slowly pulled everything out of the tank. We would work for a few minutes, rest for even longer—work for a few minutes, rest for even longer. And yes, we started this chore after emptying the dish washer and sink first. We would pull out the plants (plastic). Then we pulled out the moss balls—which were nearly dead in places due to the contamination of the brown slime—I am still rinsing the moss balls out every few days to remove slime…I did enough the first day to make sure the moss would be able to breathe and thrive again. It took a while to rinse each ball too, to pull out as much of that slime as possible. We stripped the tank down to the glass. We pulled the two HOT filters. We pulled the undergravel filters. We pulled the powerheads. We dumped the gravel—and that brown slime algae had congealed the rocks into a solid mass in some places. It was worth it to me to toss this stuff outside into the one ‘flower’ bed out front that is full of gravel.

Each item that we pulled from the tank was soaked in bleach water, was then rinsed in vinegar water, and was rinsed again. The tank, the top, the light…the plants, the décor, the powerheads, the filters. Anything that fit into the dishwasher went into the dishwasher—twice. After soaking in the sink, I ran everything I could through the dishwasher using bleach. The second time was a vinegar wash. Then I rinsed them out and off in running water. I still had to scrub the algae off the plants and off the Buddha’s head once they came out of the dishwasher.

Are you wondering about the remaining living fish? There were about eight living fish in the tank…the two cory cats went into the betta tank with Jose Jalapeno the betta…and that fish is still upset with me over that move…although the corys are very happy. The other remaining fish (about six or seven) went into the plant tank…which instantly made me start to worry, because nothing was growing there and that was a great many fish in a small space…but I knew that it would be ok short-term. Better than just flushing them outright, ‘m kay…

So, once everything had been bleached, vinegared, and rinsed again…we put everything back into the tank. We lost the castle in the cleaning process—trying to dig out algae-congealed rocks, I smacked the one side and the other side fell off…and then as I was trying to see if it would still stand without that one part, it fell over and broke off a different side…so into the recycling went our big castle…I had in storage in the basement a water fountain – without the water pump – that I used to keep in the center of the dining room table—until it became too cluttered to try to pretty up—and that came up—got rinsed in a bleach rinse, then a vinegar rinse, and a water rinse…and that went into the tank…it is three layers that we have canted to give the fish entrance into the center—so give hidey-holes and spaces to retreat in safety…

Then we slowly, so slowly, began to refill the tank with water…until it was full again.

That took us two days to accomplish.

The water had plenty of time to cycle on its own, but on the second day after filling the tank with water, we made it to the store and I bought some tank starter, just to be on the safe side, since I worked so hard to kill everything in that tank and in those filters. Then…we let it sit another day after that. I started to turn things on then though. I had added a bubble wall to the tank. I used a different HOT filter. Yes, both were driven through the bleach, vinegar, rinse process first. I turned on the powerheads. There are not rocks in this tank yet. We may not put any in for a while.

Then, I added fish back in to the big tank…one lone blackskirt—who is loving the bubble wall—a lone danio—a lone neon (that seems to have vanished into the tank)–the male molly and two females—but I still cannot see that one (the Big Mama) molly, so I dropped a third female in the tank—for the record, leaving a single male and a single female in the tank can lead to that male pestering the female to death, literally.

I am leaving the cory cats in the betta tank—because none of those three fish need the stress of me trying to catch the two corys – plus with no rocks in the bottom of the big tank to cover the undergravel filter, there’s not a lot for them to do there…and they are really cleaning and helping the betta tank.

Despite having had current before, these fish are not excited about the current now. The mollies are sticking low to the bottom of the tank, hiding in the curves of the water fountain. The danio is having a blast and is always easy to find. The blackskirt is basically dancing it’s so happy every time I see her…and as I said, that fish loves the bubble wall. She is almost always near it or in the flow of bubbles every time I look.

As for the two missing fish—they are no longer in the plant tank—and there are no fish bodies on the floor/carpet under the tanks.–the two adults here and the four-year-old spent a great deal of time looking So…all I can say is I am hopeful they are hiding and will come out later. Come on, that neon is known to hide…not just for months, but years…because we are always shocked when we see her. We got her and several other neons when Duncan was tiny—we thought they were all dead many many times over…and this one always turns up somewhere—so we are hopeful, with good reason…

Yes, we plan to get more blackskirts, more danios (and soon, so our loner doesn’t go nutso all alone)–maybe even more neons…and some new mollies to help the bloodlines along…other than our male, the females we have are all third, maybe even fourth and fifth generation…and I think he is the dad for most of them, although we did originally have four males—three met there end bullying one of our larger females a long time ago—she was the epitome of take no b/s from any guy—she had a massive smack with her tail and that’s how those three met their demise—our remaining male was the smart one—he didn’t mess with her after the second male bit the dust from her tail…but still…we need new DNA there. But we are moving slowly there…

That’s all we can do here…move slowly….